Local TV ratings and viewership was great for the Atlanta Braves in 2019, but the same can’t be said about this year’s World Series.
It would be understandable to assume fewer Atlanta Braves fans are currently watching baseball, as opposed to three weeks ago when the Braves and St. Louis Cardinals were battling it out in the National League Division Series.
As you know, the Braves and Cards have long been gone and we’ve been left with non-Braves baseball, as the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals are currently down to their last game — an elimination Game 7 on Wednesday — after the Nats defeated the ‘Stros 7-2 on Tuesday night.
The Braves’ surge in viewership
In the first half of the 2019 season, it was already rather apparent that the Braves were bound to turn in a solid year in terms of local TV ratings, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution came out with an article in early July reporting that the team had experienced a 6 percent increase in its ratings, compared to the same time the previous season.
That 6 percent may not sound like a whole lot, but when you consider that the Braves’ already had a 51 percent surge in the first half of 2018, the fact that local ratings increased even more is pretty incredible.
By the end of the 2019 season… according to the AJC, the Braves local TV ratings had experienced an overall year-to-year growth of 13% — over double it’s progress from July.
In fact, the end-of-year 2019 ratings for Braves’ telecasts (Fox Sports South and Fox Sports Southeast) were the highest they’ve been since the 2013 season.
If you’re curious, the highest-rated Braves game, locally, in 2019 was a September 6 matchup between the Braves and Nationals. No. 2 was the Braves NL East-clinching victory over the San Francisco Giants.
In other words, there is currently no shortage in Atlanta Braves’ viewership.
But if you’re like me and not just an Atlanta Braves fan, but a fan of MLB in general, you may be concerned by the current shortage regarding the 2019 Word Series.
The numbers have become rather dismal, at least through the first five games of the series.
According to a report released by ESPN.com on Tuesday, viewership for the first five games of the World Series is at an all-time low.
In 2012, the Fall Classic between the Giants and Detroit Tigers averaged 12.64 million viewers throughout the Giants 4-game sweep.
Before Game 6 on Tuesday night, the 2019 WS was sitting at an average of 11.6 million viewers.
Of course, ESPN also makes a valid point, claiming that Sunday Night Football might’ve had something to do with the decline in WS viewership this year: “when 18.3 million people watched the Green Bay Packers take on the Kansas City Chiefs this past Sunday.”
Still, it’s quite disappointing to learn that a sport currently in its most crucial stage of the season is being overlooked by fans. This is supposed to be when everyone is watching.
However, regardless of the current viewership trend, I would presume that the numbers will start climbing now that the series is drawing to an end (they might’ve already climbed back up after Tuesday’s Game 6).
With Wednesday being an elimination game, perhaps more people will tune in.
No real solution
I’ll save a deeper discussion regarding fixes for this viewership dilemma for another time, but what’s difficult about MLB’s issue right now is that there’s no real viable solution.
Sure, with roughly 47% of Americans residing on the East Coast and another almost 30% living within the Central Time Zone, it wouldn’t be the worst thing if game start-times were tinkered with.
For us east of the Mississippi, it’s around midnight when the games are over (sometimes later).
Even going from an 8 PM (EST) start to a 7 PM start would deprive folks on the West Coast, as games would begin while most people are still at work (4 PM Pacific Time).
So it’s not really as simple as starting games earlier, as the NFL is doing just fine with its 8:15 (EST) Sunday night NFL games on NBC.
I’m not sure how to fix this decline in World Series viewership, or even if there is one. And for all we know, the Braves’ numbers may crash in 2020 (even though, those are two totally different sources of viewership).
All I know is that it should be better. The World Series, the most important MLB series of the year, shouldn’t be taking a backseat… and most definitely shouldn’t be out-viewed by the NFL Pregame Show. Yikes.